House fire presents plenty of obstacles

First the speed bumps, then a hydrant is a quarter-mile away.

By JARED LEONE, Times Staff Writer
Published December 12, 2007

LUTZ - Flames shot three stories into the air, and embers rained down hundreds of feet around. Donald Renner hosed his roof to keep it from going up next.

Firefighters called to a two-alarm blaze Monday night fought more than the house fire when workers were handicapped by speed humps and forced to find a hydrant nearly a quarter-mile away.

Hillsborough County firefighters were called at 10:08 p.m. to a fire at 1205 Lake Charles Circle near Crenshaw Lake Road. Eight units, including four water tanker trucks and 26 firefighters, responded to discover the closest hydrant was 2,100 feet away.

Workers assembled nearly a quarter-mile of hose as four water tanker trucks, with 3,500 to 4,500 gallons of water each, provided anti-accelerant.

"It just went off like a matchbox," said Renner, a neighbor who has lived across the street for 39 years. "You'd need a 'before' picture to see how bad it is now."

Small bits of ash still littered Renner's lawn Tuesday morning.

Across the street, only a shell of the 6,200-square-foot house remained. The brick around the windows was stained black. The roof was gone.

"The way his home was constructed, it was a tall ceiling, a lot of attic space, it's like a lumber yard," Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Capt. Bruce Delk said.

Linda and William Morris are listed in county records as the owners of the charred house. The property appraiser estimates the home's just market value at $895,505. The Morris' purchased the property in the Glory Path subdivision in 2002, according to the county Web site.

Family members declined to talk with a reporter Tuesday.

According to Delk, only William Morris was home at the time when the fire broke out. Morris told them he was using the grill on the back patio to make dinner. He turned the burners up to clean the grill, then was distracted by a phone call. When Morris returned less than 30 minutes later, the area around the grill was engulfed in flames.

Morris and his two dogs were able to escape safely and wait for firefighters, who maneuvered over speed humps on Crenshaw Lake Road.

While fire investigator Landis Arroyo said speed humps always affect response time, he said they did not make a difference in the department's ability to put out this fire.

But the experience did leave him wondering.

"Why do they have speed humps on a through road?" he asked.

Crenshaw Lake Road, approaching the house, has a combination of eight speed humps and speed tables, a fact that drew complaints from area traffic-calming opponents.

"I see this as an issue," said Charles Kaupp, president of Citizens Against Road Restrictions and a resident of nearby Linda Vista Road. "I just purchased my own fire truck."

Kaupp said he started his organization about eight months ago, after his neighbors voted in favor of the traffic devices on the twisting, two-lane road.

Kaupp said he paid $12,000 for his mini-pumper. "My neighbors were tickled pink."

Jared Leone can be reached at jleone@sptimes.com or 813 269-5314.